Posts Tagged ‘not knowing’

Today, I notice something green
spearing through the dirt
in the garden, and only
because there are eight such spears
rising in perfect rows do I vaguely remember
last year I planted bulbs there,
but I don’t remember what they are.
How much of the beauty we plant
do we forget?

There is so much in me that grows
because of words you have sown.
I doubt you remember them,
I don’t remember them, either,
only that your words were kind
and now they have taken root.

Who knows what the flowers
will look like? I water them, though,
trust I’ll be delighted when they bloom
into a garden of beautiful I don’t know.

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Tonight is a torn map

and the woman

is a would-be voyager.

Once, she believed

there was a path.

Now, she believes

there are many.

Sitting still

beside the river,

she notices

the urge to rise,

notices when

the urge has passed.

Notices it rise again.

Being still

is one of the hardest

paths of all.

All around her

the world is moving—

gurgling, waving,

weaving, crawling,

climbing, winging, falling,

eroding. And in her,

more movement

than she dares to admit—

not just mudslides,

tectonic shifts—

every day the landscapes

change. Every day

the inner map she drew

looks less like what’s

really there.

It was no mistake

when it ripped.

Find this poem published in the amazing ONE ART POETRY

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If without warning the world were to end
at 6:05 tonight, I would like to be holding your hand
at 6:02 and sitting on the back porch
in the low angled gold August light.
Maybe we would be talking about the birds—
what kind of swallows do you think those are?
And you would say, violet green swallows,
and even if we were not sure it was correct,
it would give us pleasure to know the answer.

We would lean back and watch as they keel
through the air just above our heads.
And at 6:04, we would not know to be concerned
about what would happen next. It is sometimes
better that way, not knowing, I mean,
especially when the cosmos in the garden
are just now in an uprising of bright pink bloom
and the grass in the field is taller
than our heads and if we breathe in
deeply, it smells as if the rain is about to come.

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The liars lie and the stealers
steal and the lovers love and
the takers take. The fighters
fight and the restless do not
rest. And also true, the liars
love and the fighters steal
and the restless take
and the lovers fight and all of us,
all of us want to be right.

May I be wrong. May I come
to you without my books,
without my rules, without
my shoulds. Let me always
arrive at your door with empty hands.

Let me meet you with my pockets
full of blank, not convinced
of anything except
the possibility of everything.

Let me be wrong. Let me not label anyone
a liar. Let me bottom out.

What is it in us that wants to be right?
I have seen it turn a whole month, a whole life
to ice. I have felt the chains of certainty,
I have worn the shackles of listen-to-me.

Let me be wrong. Let there be chinks
in my belief. Let there be splinters
in my conviction. Look how alone it is
in this hour when I am so perfectly right.

May my rules go begging. May my imperatives
learn to crawl. May my righteousness hold
an empty bowl. May my musts all redden to rust.
And may I be wrong as the wrongers are wrong.
And may I unknow. And unlearn.
And unselve. And love as the lovers love.

*with a first line taken from David J. Rothman, “And Remember to Be Kind to Yourself”

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These days are a mad gamble,
winter or spring, snow storm or sunburn,

though there is no mistaking
who’s leading the dance.

Overnight the pond ice
is gone. A bird we can’t name

dives below the open water
and we gasp, wondering how long

he can stay under there.
How long have we been under,

holding our breaths, fishing
for something, we know not what.

How long has it been winter?
There is frost in my hair.

Coming up for air, is that what we
are doing? It is hard to not notice

the spells that spring weaves
on the wind—scent of thaw,

scent of emergence, scent of divulgence,
scent of almost green. What are we becoming?

The tulip, it knows what will blossom
at the end of its stem. The jonquil,

the chokecherry, the avens. Are we,
too, predetermined in our unfolding?

I used to think I knew something about
how our story goes. That was before

the spine fell off the book and the pages
fluttered away like so many swooping starlings.

Let’s not try to answer anything. The ground
itself is breaking. The buds are breaking.

The vine is pushing life through what looks dead.
It is not that the prayers worked. It is spring.

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my hammer, my nails
what good are they now
the whole roof collapsed


doe in the meadow
my thoughts in the meadow
one of these is quiet


so much to learn
not knowing


not by the shoulders
but by the soul
life shakes me


hands bloody
tearing down a wall
that isn’t even there


doe in the meadow
my thoughts in the meadow
one of these is quiet


at the same time
the tree grows
toward darkness, toward light


so open my hands
not holding
my hammer, my nails


surrounded by rubble
still I beg Love, keep having
your way with me

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every moment flees its own overflowing
—Karen Chamberlain, Ephedra

no birds wheel
in the air tonight—
wings in my song


swallowing darkness
in great gulps
a few stars catch in my teeth


I really thought
I knew something
about not knowing


gathering ephedra
my hands
are not my own hands


I wear
a red dress


the night sky offered
to loan me its black skirt
hope it’s not too small

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We remark those bugs
that hurl themselves
toward the light
and perhaps, because
we too are focused there,
we miss all those insects
that rocket themselves
deeper and deeper
quiet, as fast as they can
into the infinite dark.

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This rope of love
I tied in knots
without knowing
how to untie them.

Knot after knot,
I tied a net
for catching
myself, all the while

longing for freedom.
Why do we play
such games—
one hand open

in prayer, begging
for one thing,
the other hand working
as fast as it can

for the opposite.
You know the old
magician’s trick
when he produces

from his pocket
a knotted rope,
mumbles some magic,
and with his words

all the knots fall out.
Ta da! Well, it was not fast like that,
but slowly and quietly
and one by one

with both hands
open and by some
miracle all the knots came
undone and I

am falling, falling
through the threads
I thought would save me,
falling into the stark

between the stars,
falling through
the fragrance of laughter
and the silence

after that.

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You can’t solve being human. We will have this affliction till the day we die.
—Jeannie Zandi

I tried to know it,
catch it, show it,
to splay its wings
and pin them—
to chart it, graph it,
plot it, map it,
quantify and reckon,
I tried to stuff it,
box it, pack it,
leash it to a pole,
I wanted answers,
wanted keys,
I wanted oracles,
and in came tamarisk,
rodents, dust,
whole rooms
of I don’t know,
a screaming child,
my milk dried up,
my fear devoured me whole.
Splintered, rumpled,
rankled, crumpled,
my all collapsed,
Undone, released,
exposed, relieved,
I flowered
utterly mastered.

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